Forensic psychologists apply principles of psychology to criminal justice. Forensic psychology is similar to forensic science, but forensic psychologists apply psychology to issues relating to criminal behavior. For example, they evaluate suspected criminals and determine whether or not they are insane. Forensic psychologists combine legal issues with psychology. They also treat mentally ill criminals, consult attorneys, and analyze the minds of criminals to determine possible explanations for their criminal behavior.
Forensic Psychology Career Options
Forensic Psychology is a branch of psychology, specific to forensic science, as it applies to issues and questions related to law, criminal justice, and the legal system. The following job descriptions illustrate that there are a large variety of forensic psychology career opportunities for those with the disposition and aptitude to enter this field.
Clinical directors, managers, and program directors perform important administrative tasks and duties to help agencies run effectively and smoothly. Specific administration duties include program coordination, coordination of staff and their training, fiscal supervision, and quality assurance. Many forensic psychology administration jobs are found in juvenile court divisions, correctional settings, and not-for-profit organizations.
- Case Management
Case management services are for clients living in residential treatment facilities or in the community who can greatly benefit from continual contact with a counselor. Case managers teach conflict resolution and problem-solving skills and assess a client's living skills to determine what types of supports that require to live and interact successfully in the community. Case management counselors assist clients by providing ongoing counseling support in the areas of work, housing, and relationships and help clients find and explore community support resources.
Counseling and clinical programs can vary a quite a bit in forensic psychology. Services provided in this career field include family reunification or stabilization, in-home treatment, family assessment, and helping individuals to develop outside supports for the family. Counselors use their clinical psychology skills to identify problems to conduct assessments and develop treatment interventions. Therapy programs may also be employed to treat sex offenders, victims of sex offenders, and/or individuals with substance abuse programs. Additional counseling in areas including crisis intervention, domestic violence, vocational assessment, and mental health is is also at the top of the list of duties for clinicians and counselors in this line of work.
- Correctional Officer
Correctional officers perform a variety of routine duties according to established policies, procedures, and regulation in order to provide for the security, care, and supervision of inmates and residents in housing units. Prison inmates require direct supervision at recreation times, meals, during work assignments, and all other activities that occur in a correctional facility. Some correctional officers are trained to use various weapons, but most officers are not required to carried weapons inside correctional facilities or forced to maintain order and discipline. A career as a correctional officer career includes features relating to court procedures, hostage situations, firearms training, first aid/CPR, legal issues, non-violent crisis intervention, inmate rights, and use of force and restraints.
- Court Liaison
A court liaison is involved in the coordination of police department activities and the criminal court system. The court liaison is also responsible for handling requests for evidence, other court documentation and follow-up by the State's Attorney's Office as is required by the court. The court liaison also handles the receipt, recording, filling, and issuance of all subpoenas from the State's Attorney's Office, and is also tasked with notifying specific officers to when they must appear in court. The court liaison is responsible for guiding, supervising, and instructing members when they appear in court. Finally, they coordinate the examination, preparation, and presentation of all documents and instruments submitted by the police department to the court.
- Forensic Treatment
In the field of forensic treatment, counselors are required to provide counseling services to prison inmates and ex-offenders in a variety of locations. This may include drug education, sex offender treatment, resolution of family problems, crisis intervention, and assistance with problems that can arise due to incarceration. Counselors also may be responsible for developing and managing programs in order to reduce recidivism rates. Additionally, forensic treatment may involve dual diagnosis programs. Dual diagnosis programs are where counselors provide treatment to inmates who have both substance abuse and mental health disorders.
- Jury Consultation
Jury consultants are needed in order to carry out the day-to-day strategic graphics and jury research responsibilities. Specific responsibilities may include constructing questionnaires, reading case materials, coordinating the recruitment of mock jurors, writing analyses of findings, facilitating focus-group panels, and developing analytical graphics. Jury consultants are also responsible for the project management of graphics and research engagements (i.e., monitoring, organizing, and managing research events and graphics meetings).
- Juvenile Offenders
Forensic psychology counselors work with juvenile offenders in a variety of professional capacities. There are residential juvenile offender programs that include diagnosis, assessment, and treatment planning. Counselors often have the opportunity to provide therapy to clients as well as client families in their home or a variety of other community settings. These jobs allow a counselor to provide therapy and beneficial life-skills to groups, individuals, and families. Therapeutic services provided by counselors may include conflict resolution, anger management, abuse victims counseling, substance-abuse treatment and relapse prevention, and life-skills training. Additionally, several therapeutic programs for juvenile offenders offer multi-disciplinary treatment so forensic counselors frequently collaborate with music, art, and movement therapists.
- Law Enforcement
A few law enforcement psychologists work in collaboration the police force or as a part-time consultant to other law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement psychologists sometimes are responsible for assisting law enforcement personnel. Law enforcement psychologists are frequently trained to help with crisis intervention, including post-trauma and suicide. Other duties of law enforcement psychologists include research and development of police training programs, stress management, personnel management, and referral of departmental personnel as well as their families for specialized treatment and counseling.
- Probation/Parole/Supervised Release/Transitional
Positions and jobs within this career field usually focus on aiding inmates in re-entering society and reducing recidivism rates. These counselors work with their clients dealing with such issues as parenting concerns, child support, educational training, and vocational training (i.e. resume development, interview techniques, job placement). Additionally, counselors help their clients by teaching life-skills and creating opportunities and resources for helping their clients develop, practice and maintain these skills.
A forensic psychologist may select a career path where he or she focuses almost exclusively on research, ranging from examination of eyewitness testimony to improving interrogation methods. Some forensic psychology researchers devote themselves to examining and developing the usefulness of specialized tests that are designed to help in the assessment of individuals in a variety of legal settings (e.g., instruments designed to help assess a criminal defendants' ability to participate in the criminal justice process). Forensic psychologists who choose this career path will also be required to examine the effectiveness of various treatments for different kinds of populations (e.g., effectiveness of specialized treatments for batterers or sex offenders). Other forensic psychologists study the impact of victimization or abuse, or the factors that put people at risk for criminal behavior, violent behavior, or victimization.
- Sex Offenders
Jobs with the sex offender population include conducting assessments, providing individual, family and group therapy, and planning a community discharge. Other job duties in this area center on conducting extensive interviews and evaluations with clients and their families. As with all aspects of forensic psychology, counselors actively work to lower recidivism rates with this population.
- Substance Abuse
Substance abuse services provided by forensic psychologists are provided on both an inpatient or outpatient basis. Substance abuse services may include treatment in a variety of correctional settings, special recovery homes, or transitional living programs (i.e., Safer Foundation, Salvation Army, Halfway House). Possible careers paths for forensic psychologists include substance abuse treatment, crisis interventions, prevention education, evaluation and assessment. These careers usually focus on rehabilitating the inmate struggling with substance abuse for life-after-release. Rehabilitation can include vocational development and life skills training, as well as providing other treatment programs to the inmate following his or her release back into community.
- Victim Advocacy
Victim advocates provide accessible, confidential support and advocacy to victims/survivors, their friends, partners, as well as their families. These professionals help provide and develop education and prevention strategies and promoting social change. Additionally, victim advocates provide safety planning, crisis intervention and shelter referral, and assist victims with exams and accompany them through court procedures.
Individuals interested in pursuing a career in forensic psychology should take a course load focused on criminal justice and psychology topics since few colleges and universities offer forensic science degrees. Classes that could prepare students are clinical, cognitive, criminal investigative, developmental, and social psychology.
Certain forensic psychologists exclusively focus on research. For example, their research could lead to the improvement of interrogation methods, or forensic psychologists focus their efforts on public policy, for example, designing new correctional facilities or prisons. Most forensic psychologists spend their careers in law enforcement, corrections, or teaching.
Forensic psychologists must earn a doctorate degree before becoming licensed. Students interested in forensic psychology should take classes in criminology, abnormal psychology, statistics, social psychology, criminal law, and since motivation is an area of expertise for forensic psychologists, motivational psychology is a very important class. Potential forensic psychologists should earn a bachelor's of science degree rather than a bachelor's of arts degree.
Those with M.A. degrees in clinical psychology usually work under the supervision of a person holding a Ph.D. Since forensic psychologists with master's degrees usually earn less than those with doctorate degrees, many work at correctional facilities. Graduates with master's degrees from institutions specializing in cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, usually enjoy more opportunities than graduates with a clinical degree since they can evaluate patients.
It is anticipated that over the next 10 years the demand for research work, consultation, and clinical practice in forensic psychology will increase. Specifically, jobs working with attorneys, courts, and legislators and teaching and research positions working with juveniles will see an increase. Forensic psychologists with doctorate degrees will have more opportunities while those with bachelor’s degrees will find it nearly impossible to specialize.
Featured Forensics Programs
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